When was Columbia Founded?

August 18, 2023
By AdmissionSight
View of Columbia University building.

When was Columbia Founded?

When was Columbia founded? In 1754, King’s College, which would later become Columbia University, was established by a royal charter issued by King George II of England. It is the institution of higher learning that has existed the longest in New York, and it is the fifth oldest in the entire country.

There was contention in the years leading up to the establishment of the College, with numerous factions vying with one another to choose its location and theological affiliation. On the first point, those who supported New York City were victorious, but on the second, the Anglicans emerged victorious. Despite this, all of the College’s constituent groups agreed that they would adhere to the values of religious liberty when developing College policy.

In July of 1754, Samuel Johnson was the first teacher to use the brand-new schoolhouse that was attached to Trinity Church in Manhattan. The schoolhouse was situated on what is now known as Lower Broadway. At the time Columbia was founded, there were a total of eight pupils enrolled.

View of Columbia University during day time.

Future leaders of colonial society had the opportunity to receive an education at King’s College that was intended to “enlarge the Mind, improve the Understanding, polish the whole Man, and qualify them to support the brightest Characters in all the elevated stations of life.” (enlarge the Mind, improve the Understanding, polish the whole Man) One of the early manifestations of the institution’s ambitious ambitions was the founding, in 1767, of the first medical school in the United States to award the degree of Doctor of Medicine (M.D.).

Part of the history and how Columbia was founded is that it was unable to continue its expansion as a result of the American Revolution, which resulted in the cessation of classes in 1776 and continued for a period of eight years. Despite this, the institution continued to have a substantial impact on everyday life in the United States because of the people who were linked with it.

John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the United States, Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, Gouverneur Morris, the author of the final draft of the United States Constitution, and Robert R. Livingston, a member of the five-man committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence were all early students and trustees of King’s College. Robert R. Livingston was also a committee member who drafted the Declaration of Independence.

King’s College to Columbia College

In 1784, the university was reopened with a new name, Columbia, symbolizing the patriotic zeal that had fueled the nation’s battle for independence. The name was chosen to honor the city of New York. The rejuvenated institution could be identified as the offspring of its British colonial ancestor due to its leanings toward Anglicanism and its focus on meeting the requirements of an urban populace; nonetheless, there were significant variations between the two:

A great part of how Columbia was founded, the greater economic, denominational, and geographic diversity of Columbia College’s new students and leaders represented the heritage of the Revolution, which had been passed down from generation to generation. The isolated lifestyle of students living on campuses gave way to the increasingly typical practice of day students commuting from their homes or finding lodging in the nearby metropolis.

The College relocated from Park Place, which is close to where the current city hall is located, to Forty-ninth Street and Madison Avenue in the year 1857, and it remained at that location for the next forty years. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, Columbia University began to take on the appearance of a contemporary academic institution swiftly.

The Columbia University School of Law was established in the year 1858. In 1864, the first mining school in the United States was formed. This school was a forerunner of the Fu Foundation Institution of Engineering and Applied Science that exists today. In 1875, this school conferred the first Ph.D. from Columbia.

College To a University

When Seth Low became president of Columbia University in 1890, he vigorously promoted the university’s ideal for the College. He did this by placing the fragmented federation of autonomous and competing schools under the supervision of a central administration that placed an emphasis on cooperation and shared resources. In 1889, Columbia University welcomed Barnard College for Women into its fold.

Back view of Columbia university statue.

Three years later, in 1891, Columbia University’s medical school joined the fold, and three years after that, Teachers College joined the fold. Part of the history of how Columbia was founded, Columbia University became one of the earliest centers in the United States that offered graduate education when it created graduate faculties in the disciplines of political science, philosophy, and pure science. The board of trustees gave their legal approval to the use of yet another new name in 1896, and since then, the university has been formally known as Columbia University in the City of New York.

What is Columbia Known for?

The “Core Curriculum” of Columbia University is the foundation of the school’s educational program. This curriculum is designed to introduce students to a diverse range of concepts and points of view in the areas of literature, history, philosophy, music, art, and science.

Students are able to interact with one another and build relationships with the teaching staff in core classes, which are known for having small class sizes (only about 22 students per class). These interactions and relationships help students develop skills that are essential for successfully navigating the greater world, such as observation, analysis, argument, and respect for a variety of ideas.

The undergraduate education at Columbia University is offered through one of three schools and colleges: Columbia College, the School of General Studies, and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science (also sometimes called SEAS or Columbia Engineering).

View of Columbia University statue.

The engineering school at this university is home to one of the United States’ most prestigious and venerable engineering degree programs. Calculus, chemistry, computer science, design fundamentals using advanced computer technologies, and physics are all subjects that Columbia engineering students are required to take as part of the school’s “technical Core.” The Core Curriculum plays a significant role in the education that engineering students receive at Columbia.

The Pulitzer Prize is an award that recognizes excellence in the fields of newspaper, magazine, and internet journalism as well as literary and musical composition. The prize is given out by Columbia University. The university makes the final decision regarding who will be given a Pulitzer Prize, based on the recommendation of the Pulitzer Prize Board, which is made up of judges who have been appointed by the university. Over ninety alumni of Columbia University have been honored with a Pulitzer Prize.

Extracurricular Activities

Outside of the academic setting, what makes Columbia University so well-known? Its fencing program dates back to the 1800s, making it one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious of its kind. Although Norman Armitage of Columbia competed in the Olympics four times (1932, 1936, 1948, and 1952), he was only able to bring home one gold (a bronze in 1948). Caitlin “Katy” Bilodeau of Columbia was a fencer who won four All-American titles during her tenure at Columbia, competed in the Olympics twice, and was awarded the Female Athlete of the Decade by the NCAA.

Columbia was founded not only for academics but also for students to enjoy life. Students at Columbia University have access to a wide variety of extracurricular opportunities; the school is home to more than 500 different clubs and organizations, which include anything from Aikido to Venom Step. WKCR is the university’s very own student-run, non-commercial radio station, and it has been on the air for more than a quarter of a century. The station is known as “The Voice of the University.”

Students playing frisbee in a field.

Students have access to an almost infinite number of opportunities to pursue a diverse variety of interests in the city of New York, which provides them with a wealth of options. Students at Columbia University have the opportunity to receive free and discounted tickets to events held by artists in fields such as musical theater, classical music, dance, visual arts, and film as part of the Columbia Arts Initiative, which helps students learn about and experience art on campus as well as in other parts of the city.


Orgo Night is one of many one-of-a-kind traditions that can be found at Columbia University. It is also among the most well-known of these traditions. Annually, the night before the Organic Chemistry final exam is referred to as “Orgo Night” (traditionally held on the first day of finals). The Butler Library’s main reading room is taken over at twelve o’clock midnight by the Columbia University Marching Band, who entertain the patrons by playing music, doing skits, and telling jokes. According to urban legend, the objective is to prevent students from studying and to artificially decrease their average scores on exams.

The Varsity Show is another annual event at Columbia that focuses on performances. The Varsity Show, which has been held annually since 1894, showcases the work of some of Columbia and Barnard College’s most gifted painters and creatives. The presentation is filled to the brim with satire on many areas of campus life, including politics, student groups, administrators, and everything else.

The ceremony to light the tree at Rockefeller Center receives more media attention, but the lighting of the tree at Columbia is an incredible event for the students. The tree lighting is one of the university’s more recent traditions; it was first performed in 1998. It is held towards the beginning of December and serves as a little respite from the hectic pace of the end of the semester. The institution decorates the trees that line College Walk with lights for the annual tree lighting event. Donuts and hot cocoa will be provided without charge to students while they watch performances given by a cappella groups from the university.

What Majors is Columbia Known for?

Columbia was founded to offer several graduate and professional schools, including the highly ranked Business School, Teachers College, Law School, and College of Physicians and Surgeons. In addition, Columbia has three undergraduate schools: Columbia College, The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the School of General Studies. Additionally, the university is home to a graduate Journalism School as well as a College of Dental Medicine that is well renowned. The following are some of Columbia University’s most popular areas of study:

Social Sciences

This major is often considered to be the most prestigious and competitive option available to students and programs at CU. Through participation in this program, students have the opportunity to widen their social horizons while also gaining experience in a variety of research topics from around the world.


Students who are interested in pursuing a career in this sector should strongly consider attending the world-famous Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. It is one of the most prestigious engineering colleges in the United States, and it was established in 1863, making it one of the oldest engineering schools in the country.

Biology and Biomedical Sciences

Many students who start college with the intention of pursuing a career in the medical industry will select one of these undergraduate majors as their first step toward achieving that goal. Students have a competitive advantage when applying to medical school in particular if they attend Columbia University because it provides a wide variety of paths to choose with these options.

Computer and Information Sciences

Because Columbia University has many links with large firms in the New York City area, this particular major, in particular, does quite well at Columbia University. Because Columbia University confers such a prestigious degree, graduates are eligible for a wide variety of internships and career opportunities in this sector after they have completed their studies there.

Mathematics and Statistics

Students at Columbia have access to a very robust mathematics education that prepares them to succeed in graduate school and in their jobs. The majority of students who graduate from Columbia University with a degree in this subject area go on to achieve a great deal of success in their lives after receiving this degree.


The School of the Arts at Columbia University has a stellar reputation all around the world. Students who are granted entry into this industry will have the opportunity to put their interests into practice by participating in productions on Broadway and other prominent film and theater ensembles. Students flock to Columbia’s film department due to the university’s central location.


Again, the School of Arts hits, but this time with a focus on journaling and creative writing as the primary activities. Students have incredible opportunities to learn from the most renowned authors and academics from publications such as the New York Times and other prestigious publications.


Pharmacy is one of the most prestigious graduate programs that Columbia University’s School of Medicine has to offer. Students who wish to continue their education beyond the undergraduate level will put in a lot of effort to ensure that they are accepted into one of the most competitive programs in the country and that they are able to acquire the most beneficial education from the program offered at CU.


Students at CU have access to a wide variety of history classes, and many of them end up falling in love with the subject and deciding to major in it. Students typically go on to earn doctorates and careers in education after earning this degree. Many have the goal of working at Columbia University someday, either as a student or as a professor.

How Hard is it to Get Into Columbia?

Many others share your confusion about the admissions process at Columbia University. The admissions process to Columbia University is very competitive. The admission rate of Columbia University is consistently among the lowest in the United States; in 2021, it was 3.9%, which was the same as Stanford’s rate. The admission rate for Columbia University’s Early Decision program was 10.3% for the class of 2026. There were 6,305 applications for the Columbia Early Decision program. Each year, Columbia University receives more than 60,000 applications from prospective students.

Young woman using a laptop in a desk.

The average SAT score at Columbia falls somewhere between 1510 and 1560, and the average ACT score falls somewhere between 34 and 35. According to the national rankings compiled by U.S. News, the educational establishment currently shares second place with Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

If you want to know how to get into Columbia University, you should first understand that all of the schools in the Ivy League are considered to be within “reach” for students. It will require more than just having a grade point average or SAT score that is comparable to the average at Columbia to gain admission there.

Start preparing for college applications while you’re still in high school to give yourself the best possible chance of getting in. This involves aiming for a high-grade point average and scores on standardized tests, exhibiting interest and leadership in extracurricular activities, and beginning your application, particularly the Columbia supplemental essays, well in advance of the deadline for the Columbia application.


Columbia’s founding beckons us to journey back into the annals of academic history, to uncover the roots of one of the most illustrious educational institutions in the United States. Columbia University, situated in the heart of New York City, is an epitome of educational excellence and a testament to the enduring spirit of intellectual pursuit. Its foundation date is a hallmark, signaling the beginning of a commitment to academic rigor, research, and cultural impact that has resonated through the centuries.

Columbia’s founding goes beyond mere chronology, capturing the essence of an establishment that has produced countless leaders, thinkers, and innovators. Tracing back to Columbia’s inception gives insight into the evolution of higher education in America and the transformative role this institution has played in shaping discourse, policy, and scholarship. As we delve into the answer to this question, we not only discover a date but also unveil a rich tapestry of narratives that have defined the American academic landscape.

If you want to learn more about how Columbia was founded, or if you need help putting the finishing touches on your college applications,  at AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process.

AdmissionSight can help you put your best foot forward when applying to college this fall. Contact us today for more information on our services.

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